INSPIRING A GENERATION OF WILDLIFE WARRIORS
In August this year, thousands of delegates from 183 countries converged in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss trade rules on protection of species of wild animals and plants that are in international trade. CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) is considered the biggest conference on international trade in wild animals and plants. It was established in 1973 and entered into force in 1975 by a number of governments from around the world to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants do not threaten their survival. The outcomes from CITES are very critical given that one million species are at risk of extinction due to threats from man.
This year 56 proposals were submitted by member States with a focus on changing the levels of protections for the different species of wild animals and plants. CITES listed Kenya’s position is to have all African Elephants listed in Appendix I, the highest protection accorded to endangered species. The other listings for species are Appendices II and III that lists species that are not necessarily be threatened with extinction but that may become threatened if trade is not closely controlled and list of species included at the request of member State that already regulates trade in the species and requires the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation respectively. Kenya has been lobbying other countries to support the Resolution on the closure of domestic ivory markets and that of implementation of the Resolution on trade in elephant species. WildlifeDirect was represented at CITES by Jim Karani, Legal Affairs Manager.
WildlifeDirect, a conservation organization committed to connecting people to their wildlife and nature and inspiring them to treasure and act to conserve it, has been at the forefront of creating public awareness and action to protect elephants. Six years ago, WildlifeDirect launched the campaign Hands Off Our Elephants, partnering with civil society, corporations, government agencies and other conservation organizations in a unified approach towards ending the poaching crisis in Kenya. Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, is a patron of the campaign. The campaign has successfully generated unprecedented political and public awareness about the challenges facing elephants and built a robust support for their protection from all sectors of society in Kenya. Since its inception, elephant and rhino poaching in Kenya have declined by 80% and 90% respectively.
There have also been strategic and transformative improvements in enforcement including new laws, more rangers on the ground, creation of an elite anti-poaching force, and focus on prosecutions by the creation of a special team at the ODPP, training of prosecutors, magistrates and judges on wildlife crime.
We have also improved focus on the airport with the creation of a court at JKIA, and more scanners and ivory sniffer dogs at our airports and seaports. For these reasons, Kenya is way ahead of many other African countries in addressing the crisis facing these magnificent animals. These developments have been thanks to collective action and collaborations with many different organizations and agencies.
Meanwhile, back at home the Wildlife Warriors movement has been gaining pace with a new weekly TV series called Wildlife Warriors with Paula Kahumbu that premiered on East Africa’s largest channel, Citizen TV, in April this year. Development of this series was funded by the U.S. Government, through USAID, in partnership with U.S. Department of the Interior, Wild Lives Foundation, and National Geographic. The series provides an African perspective on conservation through the stories of Africa’s own conservation heroes, front line soldiers, and cutting edge scientists. The first season featured 14 Kenyan conservation heroes and the endangered animals they are working to protect. The TV series also celebrates Kenya’s iconic landscapes.
The TV series is complimented with Wildlife Warriors Kids program. It introduces Kenyan children to endangered wildlife and nature through a nationwide program targeting public and community primary schools. The program that is funded by Safaricom PLC was first rolled out in 33 public primary schools in Kenya and has reached more than 2000 children directly
In August, WildlifeDirect took more than 100 school children on a 5-day Wildlife Warriors Kids Expedition in Laikipia County. Many of the children who participated in this expedition came from some of the most remote and inaccessible schools in Kenya. They worked very hard to win a place on this annual trip and some of them traveled for two days to get to the campsite.
The Expedition introduced the children and teachers from 11 schools to endangered species like the Grevy’s zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, elephants, kudu, wild dogs and rhinos. They also get close up and personal to more small mammals like dik dik, guinea fowl, hyraxes, hyenas and impala and tracked animals with expert trackers, and learnt how to identify birds, plants, insects, and how to read signs in the landscape.
The highlight of the week was children meeting scientists, researchers, rangers, story tellers and some local conservation heroes who have been featured the Wildlife Warriors TV series. The learnt about wildlife, plants, biodiversity and habitats. They were able to also understand threats facing wildlife and nature and committed to protect it.
By Trish Sewe
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